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God Assures His People of His Good Intentions

DSC01027pm“He [the Lord] said, ‘If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.’”

It happened just three days after the miraculous parting of the Red Sea. God had triumphantly rescued His people from the Egyptians, showing His complete power over Pharaoh and over all the so-called gods worshipped by the Egyptians, first through the plagues, and then by the closing of the Red Sea which drowned the Egyptian army. God had successfully led His people out of Egypt and into the wilderness. But they couldn’t find water. Then the water they found was too bitter to drink. The people began to complain.

Usually when I hear this story, the focus is on the people and their untrusting attitude. At first glance, it really does seem remarkable that they would worry about water after all they had been through. We wonder why they complained instead of just asking their obviously-almighty God for something to drink.

We have to remember, though, that we have the benefit of a complete history of God’s people from the time God established them as a people through Abraham to their rise, division, and fall as a nation, to Christ’s coming and the beginning of the Christian church. We know why God rescued His people and what He had planned for them and how much He loved them.

The Israelites, however, were kind of in the dark. They’d been slaves in Egypt for so long, they thought God had completely forgotten about them. Then along came Moses with the good news that God, Whom they’d almost given up on, had somehow, actually, finally heard their prayers and planned to deliver them at last. Next they witnessed all the horrors of the plagues and the drowning of the Egyptian army. They knew without a doubt that the God of their ancestors had rescued them . . .

. . . but they didn’t know Him.

They were probably scared out of their minds wondering just what this awesome (as in powerfully frightening) new god (as in one of many others they’d heard of, not yet their One, true God) had in store for their lives.

God loved these stubborn people. He rescued them, so He could establish them as His people for the whole, wide world to see. Yet He knew they were still confused and weak. He also knew that, as far as relationships go, He was still in the early-wooing stage.

That’s what makes the story of the waters of Marah so beautiful! God knew what His people needed most from Him, and He provided it with an object lesson before they even asked.

After three days alone with an unknown, scary God, the people weren’t only thirsty. They were afraid. And so they complained. So God gave them water to drink.

Then, once they’d satisfied their thirst, he essentially said, “If you listen carefully to my voice and if you do what is right in my eyes, I will not treat you like I treated the Egyptians. I am the God who heals you.” In other words, so long as you honor me as your God, you don’t have to be afraid of me. I am on your side.

His people were thirsty and afraid; so God met their need—with water, with assurance of His good intentions, with a glimpse into His nature meant to calm their fears, with a promise of healing as they put their trust in Him.

God does the same for us. Whether right or wrong, we can take our fears, disappointments, confusion, and complaints to Him. He won’t treat us as He did the Egyptians. We are His people. If we listen carefully to His voice and do what is right in His eyes (according to the Bible, His Word), He’ll treat us as He did the Israelites that day, providing what we most need, whether it’s basic provisions, strength to endure a tough situation, wisdom to act, or assurance of His Presence and good plans for our lives.

God knows we are confused and weak sometimes. But when we honor Him as Lord, He assures us, we’re always on His good side.

Father, You know our needs better than we do. Please forgive us when we lash out in confusion or fear. Thank You for hearing our voices, for understanding our pain, and for bringing necessary healing by whatever means are necessary. Most of all, thank You for glimpses of Your character. We need these most of all. For as we get to know You better, our trust in Your love and goodwill for us grows. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

This post is linked to: Essential Fridays and Spiritual Sundays.

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Anticipating God’s Goodness Ahead

Finding Home“Rather, the land you will soon take over is a land of hills and valleys with plenty of rain—a land that the LORD your God cares for. He watches over it through each season of the year!” –Deuteronomy 11:11-12, NLT

If you read the verses preceding these in Deuteronomy, you’ll read God’s reminder to His people the Israelites. First He reminds them that He’s the God Who rescued them from slavery in Egypt—a hopeless situation for them until He intervened. Next He reminds them of how He led them safely through the wilderness to the edge of the Promised Land. He led them through harsh circumstances, providing food and keeping their shoes from wearing out and protecting them from all enemies. Now, at last, He’s ready to lead them into their long-awaited home.

Yet the Israelites have a habit of looking back forgetfully. Though they’d begged for help getting out of Egypt, they didn’t hesitate to consider going back when the desert turned out to be dry. When they reached the edge of the Promised Land the first time, they forgot all about the power of the God Who’d led them there. God’s words in Deuteronomy 11:11-12 encourage them to move forward this time with a better attitude. These verses are a gift! The gift of anticipation. We can benefit from their message, too.

Whether we’re moving from a place we love and hate to leave or a place we’ve pleaded for deliverance from, we can move forward in anticipation of whatever God has for us there. Wherever we’re going, it’s a land that God cares for. He created the place and the people who live there. He’s already watching over our new home, wherever it is, through each season of the year.

This doesn’t mean that all will be sunshine and daffodils and happy smiling faces all the time. Pain exists in every place. Sometimes God leads us to endure. Yet He lives there with us, using whatever circumstances we face to help us grow into people who are more like Him each day. That gives us reason to anticipate God’s blessing regardless of what we may face.

As we leave one home to move into another, we can determine to not look back with longing, but to look forward with joyful expectation of goodness ahead in the place God’s prepared for us next. No matter our current situation, God has something even better for us in our new home.

Father, help us to move forward in anticipation of Your good gifts in our lives ahead. We know that the land we’ll soon move into is one You already care for. Thank You for watching over it and us. Amen.

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Climbing Higher

Climbing Rock“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your love, O Lord, supported me.” –Psalm 94:18

I tried rock climbing once. My senior class in college took a trip to Yosemite National Park where the rock-climbing club from our campus volunteered to give a lesson to those who were interested. It looked easy enough.

It wasn’t.

Swaddled in harness and ropes, I began my ascent, quickly realizing that the strength I needed would have to come from my fingers and arms–every little muscle in each would be required for the task. My legs existed for balance and support as my hands sought a sure grip for lifting myself to the next level. Halfway up the rock face, I thought I could go no further. I felt exhausted, but had to go on. I began to rely on a voice from above.

That’s where my instructor was.

Below, I could hear friends, my fellow first-time climbers, shouting much needed encouragement as I struggled through my shaky situation. But my instructor was giving the advice I most wanted to hear:

“Move your hand a few inches to the left, Janet. There’s a great handhold there. Do you see it? There! Now place your foot in that crevice and push yourself up. Keep going! Now move your other hand to that small ledge just above the other one. You’ve got it!”

I depended on these words and followed them as precisely as I could. Of everything he said, though, the words that comforted me most were:

“Don’t be afraid. If you start to slip, I’ve got hold of the rope. You will not fall.”

Life is like that climb. We lift ourselves up, one handhold at a time, while listening to that precious Voice from Above. Our fellow climbers shout encouraging words as we make our way to the top. God’s voice is the One to listen for, though. He is there to help us find our way. Better yet, He’s got hold of the rope. We can depend on Him; if our feet start to slip, He’ll never let us fall.

Precious Guide, thank You for holding me tightly with the harness and rope of Your love. Amen.

For more devotional thoughts today, visit Spiritual Sundays.